Greek Calendars

There are many different Greek calendars. This article aims to give a brief overview of them. One of the fundamental works on Greek Calendars is Robert Hannah’s Greek and Roman Calendars: Constructions of Time in the Classical World (2005).

“The partial lists from Knossos and Pylos suggest that each palace had a different set of names for the months, which is the practice in the later historical period for the city states.”
Robert Hannah (2005)[1, p.16]

The months of the various Greek calendars (with there being only a single known exception among multiple hundreds of examples) were named after one of their gods or after one of their festivals.[1, p.27]

There were federal calendars and local city calendars.[1, p.28]

Hannah made note of an interesting anomaly regarding Herodotus that I need to look into more.[1, p.34]

The number of surviving records out of Athens that provide information on calendars outweighs the number from any other Greek location.[1, p.42] The days on the months are explained on page 43.[1, p.43]

Athenian Calendars

The festival calendar was a lunar calendar and, as might be guessed by its name, was responsible for letting people know on which days festivals were to be held.[1, p.42]

“There is a well-entrenched belief in current scholarship that the Athenian festival calendar suffered in practice from tampering by the city’s chief annual officials, the archons, with days haphazardly intercalated or subtracted, and that it was therefore often seriously out of phase with the moon itself.”
Robert Hannah (2005)[1, p.47]

Ancient References to Greek Calendars/Timekeeping

Aristophanes:[1, p.50]
Clouds, 615-626

Aristotle:[1, p.45]
Constitution of Athens, 43.2

Censorinus:[1, p.33]
On the Birthday, 18.2-4

Geminos:[1, p.32]
Introduction to Astronomy, 8.26

Homer:[1, p.19]
Odyssey, 11.294-5, 14.162, 14.293-4, 19.307
Iliad, 2.551, 8.404, 8.418, 19.117, 22.26-31, 23.833
Theogony, 184
Hymn to Demeter, 265, 445, 463
Hymn to Apollo, 350

Hesiod:[1, pp.20-24, 43]
Works and Days, 383-4, 414-22, 479-80, 485-90, 504, 564-7, 571-3, 587, 597-8, 609-617, 663-5, 766, 771

Thucydides:[1, p.46]
Peloponnesian War, 2.78.2, 5.20.1-2, 7.16.2

Month Names

Knossos:[1, p.17]
(possibly) pa-ja-ni-jo
(possibly) e-me-so-jo-jo

Pylos:[1, p.17]
(possibly) ki-ri-ti-jo-jo
(possibly) po-ro-wi-to-jo

Athens:[1, p.43]
1 – Hekatombaion
2 – Metageitnion
3 – Boedromion
4 – Pyanepsion
5 – Maimakterion
6 – Poseidon
7 – Gamelion
8 – Anthesterion
9 – Elapheolion
10 – Mounichion
11 – Thargelion
12 – Skirophorion


c.1370 BCE: The tablets of Knossos were created and they contain the names for a maximum of 8 different months.[1, p.16]

c.1200 BCE: The tablets of Pylos were created and they contain the names for a maximum of 6 different months.[1, p.16]

C5th BCE: Athens had two main calendars that were in use, the festival calendar and the political calendar. There was also a lesser used seasonal calendar.[1, p.42]

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[1] – Hannah, Robert. Greek and Roman Calendars: Constructions of Time in the Classical World. Illustrated, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2005. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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